Chubby set to charge from 2nd on the grid
QualifyingProvisional polesitter Alex Barros (Honda) dominated the second and final British MotoGP qualifier, held July 13, up until the final five minutes of the session when Carlos Checa (Marlboro Yamaha Team) produced a 131.651 to slip the YZR-M1 into pole position. The Spaniards performance was welcomed by Tetsuya Harada (Honda), who followed Checa around to end the day with a personal best lap, a 131.906 relegating Barros (131.828) one place further in arrears. Then, with only seconds remaining, Friday non-qualifier Valentino Rossi (Honda) overcame the hindrance of a fractured left thumb to snatch pole position for tomorrows British MotoGP by a mere 0.088 seconds the 131.563 logged as a new circuit best lap.
Checas Marlboro Yamaha teammate, Max Biaggi (132.197), heads the second row after recovering from a mid session bucking bronco ride, which saw the Italian on the tar and his bike continue, upright, into the infield. His qualifying result was almost matched by John Hopkins (Red Bull Yamaha WCM, 131.977), who was on the front row leading up until the final few minutes, and eventually ended up only 0.071 seconds slower than the veteran. In fact the times are so close that only 2.340 seconds covers the entire grid, with the top 13 within a second of the pole time.
Meanwhile, the casualty list increased today with Tohru Ukawa (Honda) and Pere Riba (Antena 3 Yamaha dAntin) absent from the afternoon session. The former was still struggling with the effects of his massive Friday opening practice crash, while it is believed Riba has broken his left tibia and fibula after highsiding the YZR500 in todays morning practice.
Marlboro Yamaha Team
Carlos Checa 2nd, 131.651: That was good, but its tomorrows result that really counts. We always knew this year would be a big fight to improve both the machine and myself, so weve stayed focused and things have got better and better. Yesterday, as is usual this season, we had a lot to test. I like the direction weve taken with the new crankshafts, this is something we discussed at Jerez. So today I was confident enough to start pushing and go quicker, then to use a softer rear for my fastest run. Its a pity to miss pole by so little but my aim was the front row, so Im happy. All weekend weve been focusing on getting the bike good for race distance and Im quite confident for the race.
Max Biaggi 5th, 131.906: That was another fall that I didnt need. And it was a strange crash, inexplicable. I was running a soft rear, which I know well, and the bike was almost upright but it was jumping a little and then it flicked me. Apart from the falls, Ive been up with the fastest guys all weekend, and as soon as I got going again I was doing low 32s, even in traffic. Also, weve made a big step forward with the settings since yesterday. Well see what I can do in the race, though the second row means Ill need a good start. We tried some new stuff here, but I want to test it more before I race with it.
Red Bull Yamaha WCM
John Hopkins 6th, 131.977: Its not exactly the position on the grid that I was hoping for. The front row would have been more to my liking, but I was able to get into the 31s, which is the target that I had set for myself. I think Im only something like four tenths of a second off Rossis time, so Im happy with that considering I havent ridden here before this weekend.
Im still making some mistakes, but I have managed to achieve most of the things I wanted with the set-up. Id like to push the top five tomorrow, and with the Dunlop tyres weve got for the race, Im confident that I can do it.
Garry McCoy 18th, 133.153: Im a little bit disappointed, I thought I would have been closer than I am, but maybe Im expecting a little too much for my first race back after such a long break. I guess the positive thing is I did my best time on my race tyre.
Gauloises Yamaha Tech 3
Olivier Jacque 12th, 132.446: Im still having the same problem as yesterday, its like theres no feeling for what the bike is doing, front or rear, so Im lacking the confidence to push it. It doesnt want to turn like I want it to, especially in the second section of the circuit, and Im losing momentum off the turns. We spent most of qualifying trying to solve this, to find a race set-up, and hopefully what we have will be good enough to keep me in with the leaders, if I can get into that pack to begin with.
Shinya Nakano 15th, 132.810: Theres not too much of a problem with the bike, so I cant really blame my position on that. It was just difficult for me to improve on my Friday time, Im not sure why. About my only concern is with some front-end chatter on my second bike, so well try these settings on the number one bike in the morning warm-up and see if that solves it.
Antena 3 Yamaha dAntin
Norick Abe 13th, 132.586: Its the same as usual maybe I should see if we can make qualifying a game of chance, say pulling the grid position out of a hat, that way Id probably have a little more luck. Even so I am looking forward to the race, because looking at these times it will be very close and competitive. Im not sure why, but Im feeling quite confident about this race maybe its because Ive had some good results here, and I like the track layout.
Pere Riba 20th, 134.009: Will not start the race.